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Roman Urdu

The Urdū Perso-Arabic alphabet, with names in the Devanāgarī and Roman Urdū alphabets

Roman Urdu is the name used for the Urdu language written with the Roman script.

According to the Urdu scholar Habib R. Sulemani: "Roman Urdu is strongly opposed by the traditional Arabic script lovers. Despite this opposition it is still used by most on the internet and computers due to limitations of most technologies as they do not have the Urdu script. Although, this script is under development and thus the net users are using the Roman script in their own ways. Popular websites like Jang Group have devised their own schemes for Roman Urdu. This is of great advantage for those who are not able to read the Arabic script. MSN, Yahoo and some desi-chat-rooms are working as laboratories for the evolving new script and language (Roman Urdu)."[1]

Although the idea of romanizing Urdu had been suggested several times, it was General Ayub Khan who most seriously suggested adopting the Roman script for Urdu and all Pakistani languages during his rule of the country.[2][3][4] The suggestion was inspired to an extent by Atatürk's adoption of Roman for Turkish in Turkey.


  • Sample texts 1
    • Zabu'r 23 Dáúd ká Mazmúr 1.1
      • Roman Urdu 1.1.1
      • Nastaʿlīq (Perso-Arabic) Script 1.1.2
      • Devanāgarī script 1.1.3
  • Roman Urdu amongst Christians 2
  • Roman Urdu and film industry 3
  • Roman Urdu on the Internet 4
  • Romanization standards and systems 5
  • The Hamari Boli Initiative 6
  • Shortcomings 7
  • Criticism 8
  • See also 9
  • Footnotes 10
  • Bibliography 11
  • External links 12

Sample texts

Zabu'r 23 Dáúd ká Mazmúr

Roman Urdu

1Khudáwand merá chaupán hai; mujhe kamí na hogí.
2Wuh mujhe harí harí charágáhon men bithátá hai: Wuh mijhe ráhat ke chashmon ke pás le játá hai.
3Wuh merí ján ko bahál kartá hai: Wuh mujhe apne nám kí khátir sadáqat kí ráhon par le chaltá hai.
4Balki khwáh maut ke sáye kí wádí men se merá guzar ho, Main kisí balá se nahín darúngá; kyúnknki tú mere sáth hai: Tere 'asá aur terí láthí se mujhe tasallí hai.
5Tú mere dushmanon ke rúbarú mere áge dastarkhwán bichhátá hai: Tú ne mere sir par tel malá hai, merá piyála labrez hotá hai.
6Yaqínan bhalái aur rahmat 'umr bhar mere sáth sáth rahengí: Aur main hamesha Khudáwand ke ghar men sukúnat karúngá.[5] (Kita'b I Muqaddas: Zabu'r 23 az Dáúd)

Nastaʿlīq (Perso-Arabic) Script

خداوند میرا چوپان ہے؛ مجھے کمی نہ ہوگی
وہ مجھے ہری ہری چراگاہوں میں بٹھاتا ہے: وہ مجھے راحت کے چشموں کے پاس لے جاتا ہے۔
وہ میری جان بحال کرتا ہے: وہ مجھے اپنے نام کی خاطر صداقت کی راہوں پر لے چلتا ہے۔
بلکہ خواہ موت کے سایے کی وادی میں سے میرا گزر ہو، میں کسی بلا سے نہیں ڈروں گا؛
کیونکہ تو میرے ساتھ ہے: تیرے عصا اور تیری لاٹھی سے مجھے تسلی ہے۔
تو میرے دشمنین کے روبرو میرے آگے دسترخوان بچھاتا ہے: تو نے میرے سر پر تیل ملا ہے، میرا پیالہ لبریز ہوتا ہے۔
یقیناً بھلائ اور رحمت عمر بھر میرے ساتھ ساتھ رہیں گی: اور میں ہمیشہ خداوند کے گھر میں سکونت کروں گا۔

کتاب مقدس کے زبور ۲۳ از داؤد))

Devanāgarī script

ख़ुदावन्द मेरा चौपान है; मुझे कमी ना होगी।
वह मुझे हरी हरी चिरागाहों में बिठाता है: वह मुझे राहत के चश्मों के पास ले जाता है।
वह मेरी जान बहाल करता है: वह मुझे अपने नाम की ख़ातिर सदाक़त की राहों पर चलाता है।
बलके ख़्वाह मौत के साये की वादी में से मेरा गुज़र हो, मैं किसी बला से नहीं ड़रूंगा; क्योंकि तू मेरे साथ है: तेरे अला और तेरी लाठी से मुझे तसल्ली है।
तू मेरे दुश्मनों के रूबरू मेरे आगे दस्तरख़्वान बिछाता है: तू ने मेरे सर पर तेल मला है, मेरा पियाला लब्रेज़ होता है।
यक़ीनन भलाई और रेहमत उमर भर मेरे साथ साथ रहेंगी: और मैं हमेशा ख़ुदावन्द के घर में सकूनत करूंगा।

(किताब-ए मुक़द्दस के ज़ुबूर २३ अज़ दाऊद)

Roman Urdu amongst Christians

Roman Urdu Bibles are used by many Christians from the South Asian subcontinent

Urdu was the dominant native language among Christians of Karachi, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan in the 20th century and is still used today by some people in these Pakistani and Indian states. Pakistani and Indian Christians often used the Roman script for writing Urdu. Thus Roman Urdu was a common way of writing among the Christians in these states up to the 1960s. The Bible Society of India publishes Roman Urdu Bibles, which enjoyed sale late into the 1960s (though they are still published today). Church songbooks are also common in Roman Urdu. However, the usage of Roman Urdu in Christian contexts is declining in India with the wider use of Hindi and English in the states.

Roman Urdu and film industry

The Devanāgarī script in Bollywood film titles is used mostly by Hindi speakers while the Perso-Arabic script is used primarily by Urdu speakers. The language used in Bollywood films is Hindi, but can be understood by Urdu speakers alike. Since a significant number of Indians cannot read the Devanāgarī script as India has a diverse linguistic landscape and some people do not speak Hindi. English, which is written in the Latin alphabet, often becomes the way to communicate among Indians who speak different languages. For these reasons, the Roman script is used for most Bollywood film titles, alongside usual Hindi script and occasionally Urdu script, although instances of Urdu script used in Hindi films is becoming increasingly rare.

The similar circumstances are also applied with Pakistan's Lollywood filming industry, where, along with the Urdu name or title of the movie, a Roman Urdu title is always provided for viewers.

Roman Urdu on the Internet

Because of lack of technological advancement of Urdu in early days so an informal system of Roman Urdu was developed by the users so to use Urdu on the Internet and on Mobile Phones similar to that used by Hindi speakers . But in recent years with the advent of Unicode and encoding schemes like UTF8 and the support of Urdu Script by almost all major Operating Systems it has now become possible to use the Urdu Script properly without any technical shortcomings which it suffered in past so the trend to use Roman Urdu on Internet has declined in recent years and more and more people are now adopting the proper Urdu Script on the Internet .

Romanization standards and systems

There are several Romanization standards for writing Urdu among them the most prominent are Uddin and Begum Urdu-Hindustani Romanization , ALA-LC romanization and ArabTeX .

The Hamari Boli Initiative

Initiated in 2011, the Hamari Boli Initiative is a full-scale open-source Language planning initiative aimed at Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) Script, Style, Status & Lexical reform and modernization. One of primary stated objectives of Hamari Boli is to relieve Hindustani of the crippling Devanagari-Nastaliq Digraphia by way of Romanization[6]


Roman Urdu suffers from many of the same problems which Roman Arabic suffers from because Urdu uses a modified form of Arabic Script i.e the Abjad nature of Perso-Arabic Script and many sounds which could not be represented by the Latin Alphabets without modifications which make such systems undesirable for many people . Also some Romanization schemes like Uddin and Begum Urdu-Hindustani Romanization suffers from a problem that they do not bother to preserve the original spellings specially the Persian and Arabic loan words . There is also no apparent advantage in using Roman Urdu as the official script other than in technology because the Perso-Arabic Script which Urdu uses could transliterate almost all English words into Urdu Script without any problem because Urdu Script has almost all the sounds which are used in English . In many cases English words are adopted and naturalized into Urdu and their phonetic sounds are modified to adopt them in the pattern of native words . This process has been going on since the days of British Raj . Because of this ability and learning curve required to learn the Romanization schemes of Urdu, the adoption of Roman Urdu is considered useless and undesirable other then its application in technology where at some places Urdu Script still suffers from some technical problems .


In Pakistan Roman Urdu is promoted by the Liberal, Secular and Westernized sections of the society as an alternate to the Perso-Arabic Script which Urdu uses . So the adoption of Roman Urdu has stiff opposition from the Conservative classes which see Perso-Arabic Script as the heritage of Indo - Islamic Civilization which Pakistan inherited from the Mughal and other past Islamic empires so the adoption of Roman Urdu is seen as an attempt to westernize the culture of the Pakistani .

See also


  1. ^ The News International, September 8, 2003, [2]
  2. ^ Paving new paths to romanise Urdu script, Mushir Anwar, Dawn (newspaper), Nov 27, 2008
  3. ^ The Urdu-English Controversy in Pakistan, Tariq Rahman, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Feb., 1997), pp. 177-207
  4. ^ The Language Movement: An Outline, Rafiqul Islam
  5. ^ World Bible Translation Center (pdf file)
  6. ^ The News International - Dec 29, 2011 -- "Hamari Boli (our language) is perhaps one of the very first serious undertakings to explore, develop and encourage the growth of Roman script in the use of Urdu/Hindi language"


  • Dua, Hans R. (1994b). Urdu. In Asher (Ed.) (pp. 4863–4864).
  • Insha, Ibn e. (2002) Urdu Ki Aakhri Kitab. New Delhi: Kitab Wala. ISBN 81-85738-57-2.
  • B.S.I. Kita'b I Muqaddas. Bangalore: The Bible Society of India, 1994. ISBN 81-221-3230-8.

External links

  • The Hamari Boli Initiative
  • Google Urdu Transliteration Service
  • Urdu Transliteration Bookrmarklet
  • Download entire English to Roman Urdu dictionary, editable, 24000 English words, Urdu script, excel format
  • Download entire English to Urdu dictionary, editable, 24000 words, Urdu script
  • Download IPA for Urdu and Roman Urdu for Mobile and Internet Users
  • Roman Urdu Dictionary
  • Dinesh Prabhu's Roman Urdu Dictionary: Includes Grammar, Word Origins, and more
  • Vaneeta's Roman Urdu Dictionary
  • Hindustani-English-Kalasha-Khowar-Nuristani-Pashtu Comparative Word List: Comparative list of 210 words in South Asian languages
  • Romanized to Unicode Hindi transliterator
  • Roman Urdu Dictionary
  • English-Urdu-Roman Urdu Dictionary
  • Urdu Nigar Unicode - Urdu Word Editor supporting spell check
  • English Translation to Urdu words
  • Automatic Romanization of Urdu webpages free chrome extension
  • UrduIME An Input Method Editor for Urdu language which uses a highly powerful Roman Urdu to Urdu transliteration system
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